The Chevy Bolt is a brand new electric car that will do 238 miles between charges, that’s twice the range of its mainstream electric rivals like the Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus Electric, but will this EV be right for you?
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More importantly, the Bolt isn’t really all that expensive compared to rivals, it starts at just thirty-seven thousand five hundred dollars or just thirty thousand dollars after the federal tax incentive.
$37,500 to go 238 miles, those numbers are unrivaled in the car industry, except for the new Tesla Model 3 which will reportedly go 220 miles for $35,000.
Those are pretty similar numbers, and yet the Tesla Model 3 is sold out for years, people are obsessing over a Tesla and fans are retweeting every time Elon Musk’s sneezes.
Whereas the Bolt isn’t selling, most people haven’t heard of it, and it’s just not cool today.
Before I get started, here are some facts to back up my theory of why the Bolt isn’t selling. A recent announcement that they are idling the plant that makes the Bolt because inventories are just too high.
How high exactly? As of writing this article there are listed on Auto Trader three thousand five hundred and ninety-nine Bolts for sale across the country, that’s 3599. Do you know how many Tesla Model 3s there are for sale? Zero.
Admittedly, the Model 3 has been out for a few years now but the point remains the Bolt has giant inventories, whereas, for the Model 3 people were lining up for weeks ahead of time in order to give Tesla a $1000 interest-free loan so that they could maybe have the chance to have a model 3 sometime in the next couple of years.
So today I’m going to try to figure out what the Bolt doesn’t have. I borrowed a Bolt from my local dealer and I’m going to show you all of its cool quirks, and interesting features and then I’m going to take it out on the road and see how this thing drives.
This car has a lot of interesting quirks and features so get ready. I’ll start with the first thing you notice the second you climb inside, and that’s the gear lever. For some reason, electric and hybrid cars just have to have a bizarre gear lever, and the Bolt is no different.
Now when you first start the car it’s in park, and that makes sense. That’s fine, but when you want to put it in reverse you have to push a little button on the side of the gear lever and then push it up and to the left to get it into reverse.
When you want to put it into drive you push the same button then pull it down, and then you’re in Drive. When you put it in drive a previously unseen L for low range appears on the gear lever.
When you want to go back to park you don’t push it anywhere to go into Park, instead you just push the little button at the top of the gear lever that says P and that puts it in park.
Next up I want to talk about the Bolts center screen. Now, this is a giant center screen by modern car standards, although not quite up to the level of Tesla, it contains an enormous amount of stuff.
Right now I want to explain to you some of the weird things that I found while I was going through the screen. The most interesting quirk is that there is a setting in the screen for literally every function on this car.
For example, you can alert it to tell you if your charge cord has been stolen, you’re charging up, your cord gets stolen and it sends you a note to tell you someone just stole your charge cord.
But that isn’t my favorite weird setting, my favorite weird setting is the chime of volume. You can adjust the chime volume up and down in most cars, it’s low or high in this car but it’s arranged with a two-digit number, and the lowest setting is 24 and the highest setting is 38.
So there’s a 14 number range in there, I don’t know why it’s not just 1 to 14, I don’t know why they chose 14 numbers, but you can go from 24 to 38 with your charm volume.
Next up the giant screen shows all of your energy usage, which is common in most electric and hybrid cars. But this one really gets in-depth, to the point where I don’t even want to get into all the information it gives you.
The one cool thing is it gives you a score on how you are doing compared to how you could be doing, or have been in the past.
And then here’s a feature that every car should have, there’s a setting for maximum startup volume, that’s for the radio. So when you get in and the last person who drove the car what was blaring the music, there’s a maximum level the radio will start at.
So even if the last person left the volume and full volume you can control it so that it won’t start higher than 25, so when you get in the car on Monday morning at 7 a.m. after it’s been driven on the weekend your eardrums aren’t blown out by crazy electronic music.
This car even has a teen driver function, so that when you give your car over to your teen driver you can limit stuff like the stereo volume, and the speed. It requires the inputting of a pin code so your teen can’t go in there and change it.
Another cool thing is that this car has a rear seat reminder feature. Basically, it can tell that before you got into your car and drove you opened the rear door to put something back there, presumably a child’s seat.
And that way if you get out without opening the rear door it reminds you that you might want to look in the back seat so you don’t forget what you left in there, your kid for example. That is a really good idea.
Slightly less well executed is the option to change the screen language. It says language so you can select to change the change language, then in parenthesis, it also says language so it can be a little confusing.
One of my favorite Bolt quirks is the brake lights. First of all just the appearance of the brake lights when they’re on is pretty cool. It looks a little futuristic looking, but the most interesting thing about the brake lights is that they’re mounted on the rear hatchback.
In the United States, brake lights and headlights cannot legally be mounted on a piece of movable bodywork, in other words, a hatchback or a hood. You can’t put your brake lights there because if your hood is up or your hatchbacks up nobody can see them.
But Chevy figured out an interesting way around that, that’s also used by a couple of other cars. Namely, when you open the hatchback the brake lights instantly shift, suddenly they’re no longer in the hatchback but down in the bumper, which is a fixed piece of bodywork.
When you close the hatch, once again the brake lights switch right back to where they were before. It’s an interesting solution to a weird problem because of federal regulations.
Now interestingly the turn signals fall under the same federal regulation, they also can’t be on a moving piece of bodywork.
Chevy could have done the same thing with the turn signals, put one set in the tailgate and then another second redundant set in the bumper, in case the tailgate ever opened but they didn’t.
Instead, they put the turn signals in the bumper on a fixed piece of bodywork, where they don’t have to worry about that regulation.
Another interesting quirk about this car is the reversing camera. Like most cars, the backup camera is mounted on the tailgate right above the license plate, and there are two of them.
One is a wide-angle camera just for regular reversing, and the other one is for the 360-degree camera. The third thing back there is the washer jet for the cameras in case they get grimy or dirty. There is a separate washer that will squirt fluid on to them so that they can stay clean UP.
I’ve reviewed a lot of cars, including a lot of really expensive cars and I’ve never seen that feature before, but I admit it is pretty cool.
Rear Cargo Area
Another interesting feature of this car is that it has a two-stage trunk area. You have the normal cargo area which is what most people see, but then if you lift up the floor cover there’s a second cargo area underneath the floor.
Another interesting feature in this car is the seats. You will notice something weird that the outside of the seats is white, and the inside is grey.
The seats are asymmetrically colored, I’m not exactly sure why they did that but it gives it kind of a cool look. It looks like the whole interior is trimmed in white and then the center is gray to match the center console bits and pieces in the car.
Another interesting quirk of the infotainment system is a feature called hilltop reserve. If you turn hilltop reserve on it only charges the car to 90%, that way if you live at the top of a hill you can use regenerative braking to get the last 10 percent of charge when you drive down the hill to work, or wherever you’re going.
The theory being that is that way you don’t have to waste any of the energy created by regenerative braking, they’ve really thought of everything.
One of the main reasons I suspect a lot of Tesla owners will claim that they didn’t buy a Bolt is because it doesn’t have all the technology that you’ll find on a Tesla, but you’d be surprised how much technology is in the Bolt.
For example, in addition to the regular backup camera, there is a 360-degree camera. There’s also a lane keep assist feature that will steer you back into your lane, and lane departure warning to let you know if you’re starting to get out of your lane.
There’s a feature that measures your following distance to the car in front, and flash green yellow red on your gauges depending on how far you are from the car in front. I’ve never seen that before, and it’s kind of cool. It also has a blind spot monitoring system to let you know if someone is in your blind spot.
It has automatic high-beam so that you don’t have to adjust them when you’re on a dark road, it will turn them on and off for you when cars are coming.
In has heated seats in the front and back and a heated steering wheel. One of my favorite Bolt party tricks is that it has a remote ignition so that you can start it before you get in in the morning.
The weird thing is I don’t know how you know that it has started, it’s an electric car so it doesn’t make any noise. But the benefit is it can run the heater before you climb in so the cars are nice and warm when you want to get in.
OK, I was so curious about that one so I had to figure out how it worked. How do you remotely start an electric car? Well, it turns out that all you need to do is press the lock button, and then you hold down the remote Start button until the lights come on.
The car itself doesn’t remote start, but the climate control does turn on. Once you get into the car you just push the power button you are ready to go. So this car has a lot of high-tech features and some cool little quirks that make it kind of interesting.
But like all cars, there are a few drawbacks. One of them is the seats, they’re surprisingly narrow. They are narrower than I expected, I can barely get all of me in the seat, and I’m not exactly a large person.
On the subject of the seats, how about the fact that the car I drove was the ultra-high level Bolt with every feature and option but it doesn’t have power seats. They can do a Hilltop reserve mode but I can’t put power seats in the car, it seems a little bit strange.
And then there’s probably my least favorite thing in this car, something that most people probably would never notice, but I spend a lot of time in cars and I notice stuff like this. When you roll down the window on the driver’s side of the passenger side, you can see the door panel sort of expands to allow for the window to come into it.
It’s something that most Bolt owners probably will never notice, and you probably won’t notice it if you have one, but I think it makes the car feel just a little bit cheaper inside than it should.
How Does it Drive?
The first thing I noticed with this car is it’s quiet, between the fact that there’s no engine noise, the road noise is pretty muted and there’s not a lot of wind rush coming in when I drive about 40.
I love the center gauge cluster because when I grew up General Motors made the worst gauge clusters. They used the worst fonts on the gauges and they just were so ugly compared to the European cars.
You could just look at them and figure out this is one of the many reasons why General Motors can’t make good cars. There are a few blank switches, there’s some plastic but that’s also true in the Teslas.
When you get to drive the car you will be surprised, it’s actually really quick. To look at the car it looks like one of those that will do 0-60 in about 11 seconds, when in fact this one will do 0-60 is 6.5 seconds. I grant you it’s no Model S, or Model X, but it isn’t a slow car.
It’s more of a novelty thing, because at the end of the day this car has a higher center of gravity, and it just won’t handle and hold the road like a Tesla or other cars that do 0 to 60 and 6.5.
I like that on the range meter it shows me my potential maximum range and my potential minimum range. That’s a really good idea, it also gives me what its estimate is, which is 215, but it says it could go as much as 253 if I drive sensibly.
The visibility in this car is really good, I think one of the problems that people have with this car is that it has minivan demeanor to it, in the sense that the front windshield slopes quite steeply away from you so it feels like a mini-man, especially the driving position. The benefit of that is that visibility is excellent in every direction.
Handling is good, especially good for a tall hatchback similar to the Kia Soul that doesn’t handle as well as the Bolt. In the end, this car is really competent, and I’m not just saying that I really think this is a well-put-together car.
I think it’s got a nice interior, it’s got a lot of tech, it’s quick, it’s fun and I like the cool screens. It’s comfortable inside with good visibility and I think this is a really good effort for an electric car and I can go 238 miles according to the EPA on a charge.
So that’s the Chevy Bolt. It’s a neat car with some amazing numbers, it’s range is incredible, especially considering its price point. It has a lot of cool features and new technology that drives reasonably well, and it’s pretty fast, which brings us back to our main point.
Why isn’t this car selling as many? What is holding the Bolt back from achieving the celebrity status that the Tesla Model 3 has?
One could argue that styling plays a role. The Bolt looks more like a standard hatchback, or maybe even a minivan, whereas, the model 3 looks more futuristic. Fine, model 3 fans will probably point to performance but get this, the Bolt does your 0-60 in 6.5 seconds.
That’s really impressive, and it’s only 0.9 seconds off the model 3 that does 0-6- in 5.6 seconds. For context, that egg-shaped Mitsubishi Electric car does 0-60 in 13 seconds, and a normal car like the Honda Civic does it in just under 8.
So this thing isn’t really all that slow, but nonetheless, I admit the Bolt is a little bit slower than the Model 3, and it probably doesn’t corner as well.
The Chevy Bolt has a longer range than the base-level Tesla Model 3, with dealer discounts it’s definitely cheaper. It has a lot of cool technology and new features and most importantly, it’s available now, today.
Admittedly I think the model 3 is cool too, really I do, but I think the truth is we all know why the model 3 has been so hyped, and the Bolt has fallen flat, and that is the Chevy brand.
The simple truth is that Chevy just isn’t as cool as the Tesla, and while a lot of Tesla owners claim that they’re doing it for the environment and they want the electric car to save the planet, the truth is, I think a lot of them just want the hot new car from the cool new car company.
Which is fine, but if you want an electric car with great numbers and a reasonable price that’s available right now, here’s your alternative.
If I was to score the Bold out of ten I think I would give for the following categories.
Starting with the weekend categories and styling where the bold is fine, it has some cool details, but it’s not exactly thrilling, so it gets a 5 out of 10
Acceleration. The Bolt does 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds, strong for an electric car but not great so it gets a 3 out of 10.
Handling. The Bolt is fine but not exceptional especially in the company of the cars I’ve tested, so it gets a 4 out of 10.
The cool factor is debatable, as always, but right now this is still a cool new car at least so it gets a 6 out of 10.
This is clearly a significant car for General Motors, an important vehicle in their line up and for their future, as electric cars start to become more common it gets a 7 out of 10
That brings the total score just 25 out of 50, which makes sense.
This isn’t much of a car you want to drive on the weekends. As for the daily score, I suspect things will be a bit different. Starting with features, the Bolt does well it’s nicely equipped with a lot of desirable modern tech, but it’s missing some stuff too, so it gets a 7 out of 10
Luxury measures comfort and the Bolt is fine, not great, but not horrible, just about average so it gets a 5 out of 10
Quality measures materials and reliability. Materials are decent, maybe just a bit above average but reliability is unknown. And there’s always a fear about buying a car, especially a car like this with a new power train so early in its model run, so it’s a 5 out of 10
For practicality, it boasts fifty-six point six cubic feet of cargo volume would give it an 8, but this category also factors in gas mileage, and that easily bumps up the Bolt to a 9 out of 10
Note I’ve also revised a few other cars practicality scores to keep the score consistent. Finally, for value, the Bolts pricing is strong, especially since Chevy dealers are probably offering some great deals due to excess inventory. It gets an 8 out of 10 bringing the total daily score to 34 out of 50.
It’s a good solid car, excellent effort, it may not be as cool as a Tesla but if you want an electric car this really should be near the top of your shopping list.